I went out for my normal 25 mile ride yesterday, my legs still a little whipped from a sammich brick on Saturday (12 mile ride, 5 mile run, 18 mile ride), and I’d planned on taking it easy. I warmed up at a fairly easy pace for three miles before I started hammering against the wind – I still haven’t figured out what possesses me to take off like this, and don’t know if I ever will, so I just roll with it. By the time I was five miles into the ride I was humming right along, but I was working really hard to keep my pace up; the wind has been really strong and tough to contend with lately. For some reason it’s been blowing from the Northwest or Southwest at an angle that means I never really get a good tailwind – I’m fighting crosswinds for the whole 25 mile ride and the cross-headwinds have been just demoralizing. I had a five mile stretch heading North yesterday that just sapped me.
On arriving back at the abode yesterday I was spent and only had a 19 mph average to show for it – which really bummed me out as beat as I was. I ate soon afterwards which really helped out but I was anticipating a very sore day today, but I’m not sore in the least. In fact, I feel a lot better today than I did yesterday before I hit the road. I know why this is so – I spent all of my ride below Lactate Threshold yesterday – but it never ceases to amaze me how much easier it is to recover from riding hard compared to running hard.
Today was supposed to be a good bit better in terms of weather, but the weatherman has not been very accurate around here lately – the wind is even worse today. That said, it’s out of the East so I’ll have a nice long tailwind stretch before I get hammered on the last eight miles. ‘Tis what it is.
So when is it time to throw in the towel? [I’d planned on this post going in a completely different direction – and then I remembered a lesson I’d gotten as an 11-year-old boy…]
My dad never let me quit anything – no matter how bad I sucked at something he’d make me stick it out. Take baseball for instance. I sucked when I was a kid, forever relegated to right field (where they put the sucky kids), but my dad wouldn’t let me quit. He was a highly recruited catcher in highschool and he wasn’t about to let me fail at his sport so he worked with me endlessly in the front yard – in fact, I can remember being afraid of the ball when up to bat so my dad set me out in the front yard, no glove, and threw the ball at me. If I moved to catch it before it hit me, he’d pick up another and throw it harder until I just took it (wow, I’d almost forgotten about that).
Now for the weak-kneed ladies out there, that may seem a little harsh, but it won’t to the men, and there’s a reason. That summer, at the beginning of the season, I learned that it only hurts for a few seconds when you get hit by the ball. With that lesson learned, I no longer feared getting hit, so I was then able to stay in the batter’s box and hit the ball. I also learned to catch without fear.
My big break came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a battle between our second place team and the first place team. We were ahead by one and I was in right center. The right-handed batter waited on a pitch to get deep over the plate before he blasted it right in between the right fielder and myself (the guy playing right was even more notorious for dropping the ball than I was). We both charged toward the ball, heading right for each other… At the last second, I leapt into the air over the kid playing right and reeled in that fly ball. It was an awesome grab. My teammates rushed me and hoisted me on their shoulders and we celebrated our victory. The next practice my coach started training me for first base. Within a few weeks that was my normal position for the rest of that year and all of the next. We had three pitchers on our team. The two that were off for a particular game played short-stop and third base – and I was responsible for catching every throw to first – roughly 1/2 of the outs in a game…and I was good. That next season I kept my mom busy gluing gold stars on my cap.
That lesson was 30 years ago. I still remember the grab and that ride on my teammate’s shoulders. I still remember being moved to first base, but I’d almost forgotten about standing in front of my dad, tears streaming down my face in anticipation of the pain, only to find out it wasn’t that big a deal after all. I was laughing after the third time he hit me – at how foolish I’d been.
Some lessons in life are hard folks, and some suck, but if you’re afraid to stand in and take a hit, you may as well learn to accept yourself the way you are, because greatness will blow right past you and it won’t even wink on the way by. I actually prefer most people take that route – it means less competition at the top of the pile.
Now, if on the off-chance that you’ll stand in front of the ball and take the hits, you get to be better than you thought you could be. That surely doesn’t mean the heavens will open up and rain down good fortune for the rest of your life – hell, every once in a while you get hit… But you won’t be bailing out of the batter’s box before your ball even gets there for you to smack it over the fence.
This lesson applies to every day, ordinary fitness. We can be faster than we thought possible, we can run farther and longer than we thought our bodies were capable of. We may not be the best in the field, but we’ll be the best we can be…and when it comes right down to it, that’s all that f@cking matters. That’s how you look in the mirror and say, “damn, I’m awesome” rather than “I accept you for who you are today”.
Man did I need to remember that.